Ross Chastain held his head high as fireworks went off around the track following Sunday night’s barbecue Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Chastain finished tops among non-playoff drivers because the NASCAR Cup Series opened its 10-race postseason stretch at the 1.366-mile South Carolina oval. The third-place result validated that Chastain and therefore the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team might be closing in on a possible race victory before Trackhouse Racing absorbs the operation in 2022 and Chastain becomes the second driver alongside Daniel Suarez.
But it had been who Chastain was racing against at the top that added an additional pep to his step — Kyle Larson. “It was really cool to mention we were close on speed to the 5 car,” Chastain said. “That’s crazy. We were close at Nashville (Superspeedway) and that we were close here. Similar package, you know, you see a trend. So, we’ll keep performing on that.” The race restarted for the ultimate time on Lap 331 of the 367-lap, 500-mile marathon event, and Chastain elected to require the within the lane with the Choose Rule, which lost him a few spots and lined him up with a row separating him from race winner Denny Hamlin and Larson at the front. But it had been lessons learned from earlier within the race that moved him to form that split-second decision.
“Earlier within the race, I restarted second next to Kyle and that I just lit ’em up and I’ve struggled thereupon literally my entire career,” Chastain said. “I’ve been performing at it but I just didn’t get an honest launch, then I used to be just very paranoid because I used to be running third, took second then I went back to sixth. i assumed I might cut my losses the remainder of the night. Made a pact with myself then and that I had to stay thereto because I said I used to be getting to take third if I ever had the chance again, and I did.”
Chastain described that he was “just on ice” on the surface groove, so a possible expire Larson for second within the closing laps had to possess happened within the bottom groove. On top of that, it had been his prowess on restarts that admittedly needs work. “It wasn’t the tire wear, it had been what’s best on behalf of me,” Chastain said. “The bottom was the simplest on behalf of me, albeit I gave up a row and gave up a spot I do know watching the sheet, but we might are in fifth or sixth if I had taken the surface. I’ve needed to recover at restarts.” The top-five result was Chastain’s third of the 2021 season and therefore the first since his second place in July at Nashville.